Having bloodshot eyes is a common occurrence. When you first wake up in the morning, your eyes can look like you spent all night out drinking, and for that matter, if you HAVE been out all night drinking, your eyes will look bloodshot as well. However, if your eyes always look bloodshot, you may need to look into some reasons why.
A bloodshot eye is an eye where the blood vessels in the eye are engorged and become visible, not to be mistaken for a burst blood vessel in the eye (most often caused by physical damage to the eye, like being punched or poked), where a portion of the eye can look like it’s bleeding. A burst blood vessel in the eye will typically fade within a week or so, but a bloodshot eye can be an every day occurrence and is not likely to fade over time.
What causes a bloodshot eye that looks bloodshot all the time? The most common cause is high blood pressure, followed by stress. Another culprit is overuse of red-eye reducers which irritate the eye over prolonged use, causing the eye to look even worse. Allergies can cause the entire eye to become red and swollen, and so can a cold that transfers to the eye. But a daily bloodshot eye can be a cosmetic concern, and a very real medical concern as well.
If one or both of your eyes are bloodshot on a daily basis, you should see your eye doctor to rule out Glaucoma or other eye pressure issues. You should also see an eye doctor to make sure that there is not debris in your eye that is causing irritation and making your eye bloodshot. You can also have poor tear production, causing dry eye, that can make your eyes bloodshot.
Stress is a major factor for a bloodshot eye. When you’re stressed, your whole body goes into overdrive, including your blood vessels. You may notice that your eyes are especially bloodshot when you are stressed or angry, and that the condition becomes less visible once you calm down. You may also notice that high blood pressure is a cause. Being in direct sunlight or around constant debris (like farming or construction), can give you permanently bloodshot eyes over time.
The key to treating bloodshot eyes is to try to keep your stress and blood pressure levels under control, and to stop using red-eye reducers that will make the condition worse. If you have dry eyes on top of bloodshot eyes (they are often intertwined), rather than using a red-eye reducer, use eye moisturizing drops designed for dry eye, and use them often during the day. Many people who have has laser eye surgery or who have chronic dry eye use these products several times a day, and you can buy them in the same aisle you get your contact solution or red-eye reducer drops in.
Once your eye becomes permanently bloodshot for whatever reason, the only solution to make it go away for good is cauterizing the blood vessel. The bloodshot eye can be treated to make it appear less visible (by reducing stress, keeping the eye properly moisturized, managing blood pressure, and wearing protective glasses in sunlight and debris-filled areas), but it will not just disappear. Once a vessel reaches the surface of the eye and becomes visible enough to bother you, it will stay where it is. Think of a varicose vein. Once it reaches the surface, you can take measures to make it fade, but to make it go away for good you have to consider surgery.
If you have a bloodshot eye (it can happen suddenly, or following an infection or other irritation) for more than 2 weeks and you have no cause for it, and it’s not a burst blood vessel of the eye, you should see your eye doctor to rule out causes and to seek treatment. Many people have permanently bloodshot eyes (myself included- mine is blood pressure induced) and the key is to treat the situation the best you can. I take daily eye drops to keep my eyes moist, wear a hat in the sun, and take herbs for my blood pressure. I have noticed a definite increase in the whiteness of my eyes and the comfort of not having my eyes so dry and red-looking. I also squint less and am more comfortable in public not having to worry about my right eye, which is worse, looking like an eyeball out of a scary movie.
While having bloodshot eyes every day is embarrassing, uncomfortable, and certainly frightening, it is a common condition and can be managed to a point. If my vessels get worse I will consider cauterizing, but in the meantime I manage to reduce the redness by making everyday accommodations, and enjoy clearer, healthier looking eyes. I also see my eye doctor at least once a year to get the full checkup on my eyes to make sure they are the best they can be.
Having bloodshot eyes every day is certainly not fun, but it can be dealt with so you can get on with life, once you address the situation.
All of my information comes from my eye doctor, Dr. Zarbynisky, OD, based upon information I’ve received from my eye doctor in the past.